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Blog: My Little Farm in Town

Winter Pleasures: Corresponding via Snail Mail

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Now that the holidays have passed, things have slowed down here on My Little Farm in Town, and I’ve been catching up on correspondence. A number of friends and family have responded to the letters I enclosed in Christmas cards and during this cold weather is a great time to write.

Sadly, more and more people seem to be abandoning the fine art of letter writing. I tend to blog on one day and answer correspondence on the opposing day.  (I’m really writing letters both days because to me blogging is just writing letters to a bunch of folks I don’t know really well yet!) I enjoy getting letters in the mail—I consider them small 44-cent gifts!

I started corresponding when I was in third grade with a friend of mine who is a Catholic priest. Once a month, he was the guest instructor of our Catechism class and would tell us Sherlock Holmes stories when Sister Bernadette left the room!  I still write to him a couple times a year. He has since retired to his home seminary in India and is in his late 80s and still teaching English literature! (He is a scholar of Chaucer. When he heard that I was studying Chaucer in college, he quizzed me in Middle English for a couple of letters. I’m afraid I must have disappointed him. God Bless him!)

Over the years I’ve kept in touch via letters with family; friends from grade school, high school, and college; and Pen Friends in other parts of the world. I write regularly to ten people and less frequently to eight others. Most people seem to enjoy my letters. Some of them have been writing back for over 30 years. Here are a few pointers for writing a good letter:

  • Always keep who you are writing to in mind. If they don’t care about chickens but love to read, write about the books you are reading right now and skip the chicks!
  • Ask specific questions about the life of the person you are writing to and remember the answers.
  • Answer questions that are asked of you thoughtfully. Refer to the letter you are answering so that you don’t miss any questions asked of you.
  • Enclosures add fun and interest. Stickers, postcards, brochures, newspaper clippings, photos, bookmarks, coasters, tea bags, perfume samples, magnets, book plates, magazine articles, fabric swatches, and seeds are all things that I have sent or received in letters.
  • Write about everyday things as well as special events in enough detail that the person you are sharing with can experience them again with you. What is a common event to you may be a novelty to the person you are writing to. It also gives them a snapshot of your daily life.
  • Don’t brag about your kids or your pets too much. Some pride is natural—too much is tiring.
  • Share your feelings. Confidences build intimacy and give the other person permission to share more of themselves with you. This give and take is important for building and maintaining friendships.
  • Be patient and faithful. During different seasons of life people write more or less often because of illness, hardship, or crazy busyness. Don’t be a bean counter. Sometimes you will write more than you receive, but it usually evens out.

Next time you get a real letter rather than an e-mail from friend or family, treat it like the gift that it is. Sit down with pen and paper and return the honor. Begonia

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